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Disney Canon Countdown: The Revival Era

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We’re in the home stretch! Six months ago, we began our epic Disney Canon Countdown, counting down the weeks to the release of Disney’s Moana. We’ve been through all the eras of Disney’s history up to this one, the Revival Era, or, as some like to think of it, the second Disney Renaissance.

We’ve already discussed some of the controversy surrounding Meet the Robinsons, Bolt, and The Princess and the Frog. Some people include one or more of them in the Revival Era, while others consider them to be Post-Renaissance. While I personally would like to consider them as their own little transitional era, we at the Rotoscopers decided, for a variety of reasons, that they were probably best considered as part of the Post-Renaissance era, due mainly to the enormously successful box office runs that the Revival Era has seen, something that the three aforementioned films can’t really boast.

The first of these massive successes came in 2010 from Tangled, Disney’s spin on the classic fairy tale, Rapunzel. This was Disney’s first 3-D animated, princess movie, and after the disappointing return on The Princess and the Frog, expectations were high. Disney even went so far as to change the name of the film from the classic title, Rapunzel, to the more gender neutral title, Tangled, in the hopes of attracting a wider audience that they feared had been turned off by the use of ‘Princess’ in the title of the previous film. Whatever the reason, Tangled took in more than twice what The Princess and the Frog made, and the title change paved the way for more one-word descriptive titles in the future.

The next film in the era is really the odd one out. Winnie the Pooh is Disney’s final traditionally animated film, and not that many people are even aware of its existence, or if they are, they aren’t aware that it’s part of the official canon. While there were a few direct-to-video Winnie the Pooh titles in the past 20 years, this one actually came to theaters, and like The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh before it, it is actually based on the original stories by A.A. Milne. Unfortunately, despite being one of the best reviewed animated films of 2011, it did not do very well financially, further cementing 2-D animation in people’s minds as an antiquated genre.

Disney didn’t let the slight setback of Winnie the Pooh interrupt them though, and they got right back on track in 2012 with the release of Wreck-It Ralph. This original story about the secret lives of video game characters quickly became Disney’s most acclaimed, non-musical animated feature since One Hundred and One Dalmatians and earned almost $500,000,000 at the box office.

And then, in 2013, as almost everyone in the world knows, Frozen happened. This Disney take on the classic Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, The Snow Queen, quickly became Disney’s highest grossing animated film of all time and went on to become Disney’s first animated film to earn over one billion dollars at the box office. Not only that, but it is currently the highest grossing animated film of all time.

While it’s almost impossible to follow up something that successful, Disney took its best shot the next year when the company released Big Hero 6, its first use of a Marvel superhero property in an animated film. While it did not quite reach the heights that Frozen reached, it did out earn every other film in Disney’s animated canon, except for The Lion King, and until this year, was Disney’s highest grossing, non-musical animated film.

Which brings us to now, 2016, when Disney released the anthropomorphic animal, buddy cop/mystery/comedy/adventure, Zootopia. As just mentioned, Big Hero 6 was Disney’s highest grossing, non-musical until Zootopia, which is still in some theaters and is slowly creeping toward Frozen’s record. While it most likely will not quite make it, as of this writing, Zootopia has passed the one-billion-dollar mark and is Disney’s second highest grossing feature, as well as the fourth highest grossing animated feature in history.

So what’s next? How long will the Revival Era last? While it’s impossible to foretell, the future does look bright. This year will see the release of Moana, the film that we’ve been counting down to since May. This will be a new, original story based on Polynesian myths, as well as a new addition to Disney’s line of princess movies.

There are no Disney films scheduled for 2017, but 2018 will see the release of not one, but two new films: the highly anticipated sequel to Wreck-It Ralph, as well as a new film based on the classic tale of Jack and the Beanstalk, simply titled Gigantic. Beyond that, we know that Disney is planning a sequel to Frozen, but there is no definite release date yet. However, if it is even half as successful as the first one, Disney has nothing to worry about.

And that’s it for this look back at Disney’s animated eras. Join us tomorrow as we enter the Revival Era, the final era of our Disney Canon Countdown, with our look back at Tangled!

How about you? What is your favorite film from the Revival Era? Which upcoming film are you most looking forward to?

Edited by: Kelly Conley

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About Jonathan North

Jonathan North is writer, photographer, video editor, and animation fan from Iowa. He studied advertising and design at Iowa State University, and also has degrees in multimedia and art. His favorite movie is Fantasia, and his favorite cartoon is Gravity Falls. Or maybe Steven Universe. He can’t decide. You can find more of his work on his blog, as well as his YouTube channel, where he reviews all manner things, including (almost) every version ever of Alice in Wonderland. His favorites are the 1999 version starring Tina Majorino, and of course, the 1951 Disney version. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr, @jonjnorth.